AZERBAIJAN, one of the independent states of the C.I.S.; formerly part of Persia and the Soviet Union. It gained its independence with the breakup of the U.S.S.R.
Former northwestern province of Iran. There have been Jewish settlements in Azerbaijan ever since Jews first settled in Persia. However, their presence is attested by documentary evidence only from the 12th century. *Benjamin of Tudela (c. 1165) refers in his Travels to a chain of "more than a hundred congregations in the Haftan mountains up to the frontiers of Media," which included Persian Azerbaijan. *Samuel b. Yaḥyā al-Maghribī relates that David *Alroy (12th century) found adherents for his messianic movement in such cities as Khoi, Salmas, *Tabriz, Maragha, and Urmia (*Rizaiyeh).
When after 1258 Hūlāgū Khān established his residence in Tabriz, the new center attracted many Jewish settlers. Saʿad al-Dawla (d. 1291) made his career there as courtier. Tabriz, Sulṭāniyya, and other places in Azerbaijan continued to be a scene of Jewish events in the 13th and 14th centuries. Azerbaijan was also a *Karaite center. Under the Safavids, Jews are mentioned in several districts.
The Jews in Azerbaijan survived persecutions in the 17th century. Between 1711 and 1713 an emissary (shali'aḥ) from Hebron, Judah b. Amram Dīwān, visited many communities in Azerbaijan. The sufferings of the Jews under the Kajar dynasty (from 1794) in Maragha, Urmia, Salmas, and Tabriz is graphically described by Christian missionaries and various travelers of the 19th century, including *David d'Beth Hillel. The dialect of the Jews in various communities in Azerbaijan has been the object of investigations by western scholars such as *Noeldecke, Socin, Duval, *Gottheil, Maclean, and J.J. *Rivlin.
Fischel, Islam, passim; idem, in: PAAJR, 22 (1953), 1–21; Lowenthal, in: HJ, 14 (1952), 61–62; J.J. Chorny, Sefer ha-Massa'ot (1884), 106–25, 263–4, 324–31; Benyamini, in: Aḥdut, 3 (1912), 14–15, 47–48; V.F. Miller, Materialy dlya izucheniya yevreyskotatarskogo yazyka (1892), includes bibliography. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: U. Schmelz and S. DellaPergola, in: AJYB, 95 (1995), 478; AJYB, 103 (2003); Supplement to the Monthly Bulletin of Statistics, 2 (1995); Institute of Jewish Affairs, Antisemitism World Report 1994, 137–38.
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.